The Ironman Triathlon is the grand daddy of all endurance races: We’re talking a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike, topped off by a 26.2-mile run. And considering that the current World Champ record holder (Craig Alexander, in 2011) clocked in at just over eight hours, the Ironman couldn’t be truer to its name.
The term "Ironman" was actually coined back in the 70s from a dispute between military officers over which athlete—the swimmer, biker, or runner—was toughest. Since then, it has grown into a nationally televised event, and this year's IRONMAN World Championship will be held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on October 13, surely inspiring a new crop of athletes to take on the triple-threat challenge.
So how does a guy prepare for such a physically and mentally grueling race? For that, Men’s Fitness enlisted Kevin Mackinnon, managing editor at Ironman and an accomplished triathlete and trainer. Here, his best tips for conquering the toughest of tough triathlons.
IT'S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
For an event that takes nearly a whole day to complete (the swim kicks off at 7 a.m. with a midnight last call to finish the run), training for the Ironman requires a strict regimen and serious time commitment. Begin your training as early as possible. “Giving yourself a year,” says Mackinnon. “It’s very much an endurance sport, and when you choose it, there really isn’t an offseason. Most people who do more than one event are training year round.”
According to Mackinnon, the average triathlete trains for 18-30 hours a week, which is like a part-time job: 7 miles of swimming, 225 miles of biking, and 48 miles of running. If you can’t put in a full year, Mackinnon recommends training for at least seven months. An Ironman isn’t something to take on lightly.